A Houston startup is bringing all the dogs to the yard. Photo courtesy of Fido

Considering that Americans will reportedly spend $109.6 billion on pets this year, according to new data, it really pays to be discerning when buying. Now, Houston dog owners can stay local when shopping for their fur babies.

Houstonians Brad Madrid and Bobby Dwyer have launched Fido, a new e-commerce pet wellness brand. Available all over Houston, Texas, and indeed, the nation,

Fido products will initially start with Chill Chews and Clear Ears, both of which are scientifically formulated and aim to provide relief and comfort, per a press release. Products are lab-tested and veterinarian-approved, per the company.

Anxious pups may benefit from Chill Chews, which make training, traveling, and everyday life smoother and are said to help pets relax. The Clear Ears, meanwhile, is composed of natural ingredients such as eucalyptus and aloe and is meant to keep pets’ ears clean and clear of any wax, debris, fungus, and bacteria.

“As a professional dog trainer and breeder, I’ve worked with hundreds of dogs which has allowed me to develop a deep understanding of how dogs think and function,” said Dwyer in a statement. “Through my profession, I’ve discovered a need for products to ensure canines’ health and wellness, and it’s our mission to provide great products to make good boys even better.”

Brad Madrid and Bobby Dwyer have launched Fido, a new e-commerce pet wellness brand. Photo courtesy of Fido

Madrid and Dwyer aren’t just business partners but also brothers-in-law. Bringing science to Fido, Madrid boasts a background in pharmaceuticals, while Dwyer brings canine know-how with his experience as a dog trainer.

Both hope to see their business grow by leaps and bounds. Products are available for purchase on the website and shipping is available nationwide. Plans for products to be sold in local pet stores, as with international shipping available in the future.

If current data is any indication, Madrid and Dwyer are in the right business. A survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners found that 52 percent of respondents said they spend more money on their pets than they do on themselves each year, per GoBankingRates.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Here's the latest news from Cart.com. Photo via cart.com

Houston e-commerce startup makes C-suite appointment and acquisition

growth mode

In the past week, Houston-based Cart.com has made some big moves on its tech startup journey — including another strategic acquisition and new hire.

The end-to-end e-commerce-as-a-service provider, which recently raised a $98 million series B round of funding, announced Tony Puccetti as the company's new chief delivery officer following the acquisition of 180Commerce, a leading online sales partner.

Puccetti, who joins Cart.com from digital consultancy Blue Acorn, will manage all client deliverables for the company. Puccetti also previously served as general manager and senior vice president over e-commerce, strategym sales, and more at Onestop Internet.

"I've spent my career championing fast-growing brands in the retail space, so I recognized instantly that Cart.com's ability to deliver seamless end-to-end e-commerce support and services was a true gamechanger," Puccetti says in a news release. "I'm thrilled to be joining the team, and I'm looking forward to helping deliver the services and technologies that brands need to grow their business and realize their full potential in today's omnichannel world.

Cart.com hired Tony Puccetti as the company's new chief delivery officer. Photo via LinkedIn

Omair Tariq, Cart.com CEO, says Puccetti has the talent and experience the company's clients need.

"Cart.com has built a reputation for making big, bold promises — then delivering on them, and exceeding our customers' expectations as they scale their e-commerce brands," continues Tariq in the release. "We're delighted to be welcoming Tony to the Cart.com family, and we're looking forward to working with him to transform the tech-enabled commerce space for merchants of all sizes."

The news of Puccetti's appointment follows news of California-based 180Commerce's acquisition by Cart.com. The company was founded in 2016 following DSW's acquisition of Shoe Metro, the largest Amazon footwear reseller. According to the news release, leaders from Shoe Metro formed 180Commerce "to bring their expertise directly to brands through a tech-enabled agency service model." The company provides its clients with data-driven and tech-enabled retail strategies, tools, and resources.

"The 180Commerce value proposition has always focused on helping consumer brands grow long-term revenue and profitability by optimizing and streamlining their marketplace strategies. By joining with Cart.com, we're bringing that vision to a far wider audience while continuing to expand our offering to the brands we serve with the powerhouse of offerings Cart.com provides," says Jason Stuempfig, founder of 180Commerce. "We share Cart.com's vision for a no-hassle, fully integrated e-commerce ecosystem, and I'm delighted to be starting this new chapter in the 180Commerce story."

The acquisition means a merging of clients, services, and staff between the two companies. 180Commerce's full team will be onboarded to Cart.com under Stuempfig's leadership.

"We're thrilled to welcome the 180Commerce team into the Cart.com family as we continue to expand our offering of commerce everywhere," Tariq says in the release. "Jason turned 180Commerce into a success story by being relentlessly focused on delivering results for brands, while creating a powerful company culture in which everyone is valued. That's exactly the combination we look for at Cart.com — especially when it's paired with a commitment to using data and technology to streamline and optimize e-commerce and marketplace functions for fast-growing brands in every corner of the world."

This acquisition is the latest in a series for Cart.com. Previously, the company has acquired AmeriCommerce, Spacecraft Brands, DuMont Project, and Sauceda Industries.

"Acquisitions are central to Cart.com's growth strategy, and with the addition of 180Commerce we're underscoring our commitment to expanding into new areas and building out best-in-class capabilities across the full spectrum of e-commerce sales channels such as marketplaces," says Saheb Sabharwal, chief strategy officer at Cart.com, who leads all M&A activity, in the release. "We're looking forward to working with Jason and the 180Commerce team to drive new value for Cart.com's thousands of loyal users. We have a great process in place to integrate new companies into the Cart.com ecosystem, and we're actively seeking additional M&A opportunities as we augment our solutions for brands."

Remington Tonar, chief commercial officer and co-founder at Cart.com, also recently told InnovationMap of the company's plans on a recent episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Heading into the holidays, where potential new clients will be focusing on delivering on orders and sales, Tonar says Cart.com is expecting a busy 2022 in terms of growth. In a lot of ways, the COVID-19 pandemic played a major role in the development of e-commerce and, by extension, Cart.com.

"The pandemic has played a role in overall accelerating the growth of e-commerce as a category and an industry. That growth was going to happen anyways, but it made it more ubiquitous faster," Tonar says. "It's just commerce now. This is just how people purchase and consume things."

Stream the full podcast below.

New York City-based Vroom employs more than 900 people in the Houston area. Photo courtesy of Vroom

E-commerce company focused on car sales revs up for Houston expansion

vroom, vroom

Vroom, an e-commerce platform for buying and selling used vehicles, is driving up its presence in the Houston area.

The publicly traded company recently established a "last-mile hub" in Stafford where Vroom workers will inspect, detail, and place temporary tags on all cars being delivered or picked up in Texas. The hub is expected to serve nearly 7.1 million motorists in more than 455 ZIP codes within a 75-mile radius.

New York City-based Vroom employs more than 900 people in the Houston area. Aside from the new hub, local employees work at the company's reconditioning center, executive offices, and Texas Direct Auto and Sell Us Your Car locations. The hub is housed within Vroom's 293,000-square-foot reconditioning center. The reconditioning center alone employs almost 400 people.

Leaders of the new hub include Mary Kay Wegner, Vroom's chief logistics officer, and John Piatak, vice president of transportation.

"As Vroom's business continues to grow, we're committed to investing in the Houston area, from expanding our physical footprint, to hiring more local workers, to offering new services for our valued customers," Wegner says in a news release.

In the Houston area, the number of vehicles purchased from Vroom surged 144.6 percent from the first half of 2020 to the first half of 2021, the company says. The number of vehicles sold to Vroom in the Houston area soared 624.4 percent during the same period.

In fiscal 2020, Vroom sold 34,488 cars, up 82 percent from the same period a year earlier. Last year, the company posted revenue of nearly $915.5 billion, up almost 56 percent from the previous year.

"As the used vehicle market continues to embrace the e-commerce model, we will continue to execute our plan and invest in scaling our business and improving our customer experience as we transform the market for buying and selling used vehicles," Vroom CEO Paul Hennessy said in a March news release.

Vroom, founded in 2013, debuted as a public company in June 2020. As a private company, Vroom scooped up $1.3 billion in funding.

Last month, Vroom agreed to buy auto lender United Auto Credit for $300 million. Newport Beach, California-based United Auto Credit specializes in auto loans for buyers with spotty credit records.

Houston-based Cart.com, which equips e-commerce businesses with a suite of software services, has raised $45 million in venture capital investment since its founding in September. Photo via cart.com

Houston-based e-commerce software startup and Amazon competitor raises $25M in its series A

Money moves

An end-to-end e-commerce services provider based in Houston has closed its series A round of financing led by a Houston venture capital group.

Cart.com announced the closing of its $25 million led by Houston-based Mercury Fund and Florida-based Arsenal Growth with contribution from Austin-based Moonshots Capital and Ohio-based Scarlet Venture Fund. The new round follows its $20 million Seed round led by Amsterdam-based Bearing Ventures.

The company was founded last September by two former entrepreneurs — Omair Tariq, former executive at Home Depot and COO of Blinds.com, serves as CEO and Jim Jacobsen, co-founder and former CEO of RTIC Outdoors, serves as executive chairman.

"We know the pain points brands face in the e-commerce value chain because we have experienced them firsthand. We built Cart.com to solve those problems and deliver unequaled value for brands from a single platform," Jacobsen says in a news release.

The duo wanted to create a suite of software solutions that allows brands to "grow their e-commerce capabilities with less friction than the fragmented plug-in and vendor intensive approach available today," according to the release.

"The current e-commerce offerings favor the service providers, not the brands," Tariq says in the release. "We are on a mission to flip that dynamic and put the sellers back in charge of their e-commerce journey and their customer relationships. Our team will continue to obsess over our brands' success, so they can obsess over their customers. This is what will create tremendous long term shareholder value and be the true measure of our success."

The e-commerce-as-a-service, or ECaaS, company will use the funds to grow to meet increasing customer demand and hire new team members. Per the release, Cart.com has an "aggressive growth strategy" and has already made five acquisitions to date, including storefront software platform AmeriCommerce, a storage supplies business with fulfillment services across the country, and two digital marketing agencies.

"Competition in the e-commerce market is reaching a precipice, and only those companies with the pedigree, vision, technology and the been-there-done-that perspective will be able to truly shift the surge away from market monopolies and provide power back to the brands themselves to the benefit of the businesses and their customers," says Blair Garrou, co-founder and managing director at Mercury. "Our financial commitment illustrates our confidence in the mission and strategy of Cart.com. The team assembled has incredible opportunity to be a true market leader and pioneer ECaaS in the e-commerce services space."

Houston-based GoExpedi is growing its presence in the Northeast with a new warehouse. Photo by Colt Melrose for GoExpedi

Houston e-commerce startup expands with new procurement center

Scaling up

A growing e-commerce tech company headquartered in Houston has a new industrial and energy MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) warehouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The new procurement center will help GoExpedi meet the increasing demand the company has been seeing in the Northeast.

"We're excited for our new Pittsburgh warehouse as the location was carefully selected to boost access for our upstream, midstream and downstream clients for vital operational products. Our expansion in the Northeast is a major milestone for our growing company and will serve as the starting point for our national push," says Tim Neal, CEO of GoExpedi, in a news release.

The new facility is GoExpedi's sixth warehouse since 2017 — previous locations were in Texas, Wyoming, and California. And, according to the release, the company has several more in the works.

"This is a monumental step in becoming the leading national supplier of efficient, reliable, and cost-effective MRO products for all industrial sectors," he continues. "We look forward to growing our presence, adding talent, and working with more energy customers in the months ahead."

Last fall, GoExpedi raised $25 million in its series C in order to grow and scale operations. The company has raised over $75 million in total investment, according to Crunchbase.

In a recent InnovationMap interview, Neal attributes the growth of GoExpedi to the tech-savvy and younger workforce that's growing in the industrial and energy scene. With more and more people adapting to the tech and convenience of ordering commercially on Amazon and other retailers, these people want that in their professional lives too, he says.

"The mission for us is to make procurement of these (MRO) goods simple and efficient," he says. "We wanted to take a tech-first approach, really make sure people getting these things, but then also track what they're spending to help them more effectively run their business."

Retail trends are affecting Houston's real estate growth, a report from Avison Young finds. Photo via Getty Images

Report: E-commerce soars in 2020 — in Houston and beyond

online shopping spree

This year's holiday shopping season is keeping online retailers hopping. Commercial real estate services provider CBRE predicts holiday e-commerce sales in 2020 will exceed last year's by a whopping 40 percent.

But even before Americans were focusing intently on buying holiday gifts, e-commerce had taken off amid pandemic-generated shopping constraints. In the second quarter of this year, online sales skyrocketed by 44.5 percent compared with the same period in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. E-commerce accounted for a record-high 15.1 percent of total retail sales from April through June.

A forecast from commercial real estate services provider Avison Young indicates the U.S. upswing in e-commerce sales will benefit one segment of Houston's real estate sector more than any other in 2021 — industrial. Riding this year's e-commerce wave, Houston's industrial market will "remain solid" next year, the forecast says.

"Industrial continues to outperform all other asset types," Avison Young's report reads, "but higher vacancies and larger rent concessions will continue in 2021 as the new supply outpaces immediate demand. Online shopping is strong, and national retailers are building large distribution centers and last-mile facilities throughout the metro."

The forecast cites several industrial projects underway or recently leased in the Houston area:

  • A 1 million-square-foot spec warehouse under construction in Baytown, near the Port of Houston. It's said to be one of the largest spec industrial facilities underway in the U.S. The developer is Hunt Southwest Industrial Real Estate. The warehouse is set to open in March.
  • A 1.5 million-square-foot distribution center under construction in New Caney for home improvement retailer Lowe's. The $65 million project, which will be the largest industrial facility in Montgomery County, is supposed to be ready for occupancy in July.
  • A newly completed 402,648-square-foot facility that online retailer Costway is occupying in Pasadena, near the Port of Houston.
  • Dunavant Distribution's expansion into a 784,000-square-foot leased property in Deer Park, near the Port of Houston.

Various e-commerce players are relying more and more on regional distribution centers, last-mile distribution facilities, and micro-fulfillment centers throughout the Houston area, according to Avison Young. E-commerce behemoth Amazon is driving a lot of this activity. For instance, the retailer is planning a 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Missouri City. That space is scheduled to open sometime in 2021. Meanwhile, an 850,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center is on tap for nearby Richmond.

In a third-quarter report, Avison Young noted that 15.1 million square feet of industrial space was under construction in the Houston area and 4.1 million square feet of industrial space had been completed, with net absorption of 1.1 million square feet.

The Port of Houston is helping propel many of the moves in Houston's industrial market. In October, the port notched its busiest month on record, with cargo activity sailing 15 percent above the same period in 2019. Operators of the port hope to begin work on widening of the Houston Ship Channel in 2021.

Nationally, this year's spike in online shopping rocked the retail boat. This surge has produced new generations of retailers and consumers, Avison Young says, and has put pressure on the entire supply chain. Furthermore, it has accelerated chatter about the road ahead for last-mile delivery and brick-and-mortar retail.

"Existing retail space, which was either redundant or surplus to requirements, is being repurposed to facilitate 'click and collect' models," per the report. "Retailers are adjusting the 'front end' consumer-facing component of the store for showroom or experiential space to complement traditional browse-and-buy activity. In-store staff, coupled with technology investments, are being channeled into order picking and back-of-house fulfillment activities."

"Traditional stores were always a combination of the retail and logistics functions; recent trends suggest a renewed recognition of this dual role," the firm adds. "As surplus retail space becomes cheaper and more available, innovations around hyperlocal delivery will be a key part of reimagining the future of retail."

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston startups raise funding, secure partnerships across space, health, and sports tech

short stories

It's been a new month and a few Houston startup wrapped up November with news you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, three Houston startups across health care, space, and sports tech have some news they announced recently.

Houston digital health company launches new collaboration

Koda Health has a new partner. Image via kodahealthcare.com

Houston-based Koda Health announced a new partnership with data analytics company, CareJourney.

"This collaboration will aim to develop benchmarking data for advance care planning and end-of-life metrics," the company wrote on LinkedIn. "Koda will provide clinical and practice-based expertise to guide the construction of toolkits, dashboards, and benchmarks that improve ACP programs and end-of-life outcomes."

Koda Health announced the partnership in November..

“Beyond the checkbox of a billing code or completed advance directive, it’s important to build and measure a process that promotes thoughtful planning among patients, their care team, and their loved ones,” says Desh Mohan, MD, Koda's chief medical officer, in the post.

CareJourney was founded in 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.

"I'm hopeful next-generation quality measures will honor the patient’s voice in defining what it means to deliver high quality care, and our commitment is to measure progress on that important endeavor," noted Aneesh Chopra, CareJourney's co-founder and president.

Sports tech startup raises $500,000 pre-seed investment

BeONE Sports has created a technology to enhance athletic training. Photo via beonesports.com

Houston-founded BeONE Sports, an athlete training technology company, announced last month that it closed an oversubscribed round of pre-seed funding. The company announced the raise on its social media pages that the round included $500,000 invested.

Earlier in November, BeONE Sports completed its participation in CodeLaunch DFW 2022. The company was one of six finalists in the program, which concluded with a pitch event on November 16.

Space tech company snags government contracts

Graphic via cognitive space.com

The U.S. Air Force has extended Houston-based Cognitive Space’s contract under a new TACFI, Tactical Funding Increase, award. According to the release, the contract "builds on Cognitive Space’s work to develop a tailored version of CNTIENT for AFRL to achieve ultimate responsiveness and optimized dynamic satellite scheduling via a cloud-based API.

The $1.2 million award follows a $1.5 million U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research award that the company won in 2020 to integrate CNTIENT with commercial ground station providers in support of AFRL’s Hybrid Architecture Demonstration program.

“The TACFI award allows Cognitive Space to continue supporting AFRL’s vitally important HAD program to help deliver commercial space data to the warfighter,” says Guy de Carufel, the company’s founder and CEO, in the releasee. “CNTIENT’s tailored analytics platform will enable HAD and the GLUE platform to integrate modern statistical approaches to optimize mission planning, data collection, and latency estimation.”

Houston airport powers up new gaming lounge for bored and weary travelers

game on and wheels down

Local gamers now have a new option to while away those flight delays and passenger pickup waits at Hobby Airport.

Houston's William P. Hobby Airport is now one the first airports in the country to offer what's dubbed as the "ultimate gaming experience for travelers." The airport has launched a premium video game lounge inside the international terminal called Gameway.

That means weary, bored, or early travelers can chill in the lounge and plug into15 top-of-the-line, luxury gaming stations: six Xbox stations, five Playstation stations, four PC stations, all with the newest games on each platform. Aficionados will surely appreciate the Razer's Iskur Gaming Chairs and Kraken Headsets, along with dedicated high speed internet at each PC station.

The Gameway lounge pays homage to gaming characters, with wall accents that hark to motherboard circuits Crucial for any real gamer: plenty of sweet and savory snacks are available for purchase to fuel up on those fantasy, battle, or sporting endeavors. As for the gaming console stations, players can expect high definition screens, comfortable seating, and plenty of space for belongings.

Make video games a part of your pre-flight ritual. Photo courtesy of Gameway

This gaming addition comes just in time for the holiday rush, when travelers can expect long lines, delays, and are already planning for extended time for trips. As CultureMap previously reported, Hobby will see a big boost in travelers this season — the largest since 2019. Now, those on a long journey can plug in, decompress, and venture on virtual journeys of their own.

Texan travelers may be familiar with Gameway; the company opened its first two locations at Dallas Fort-Worth Airport. The buzzy lounge an industry wave of acclaim: Gameway was awarded Best Traveler Amenity in 2019 at the ACI-NA Awards and in 2020, voted “Most Innovative Customer Experience” at the Airport Experience Traveler Awards, per press materials.

Two new locations followed in 2021: LAX Terminal 6 and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The first of Gameway's Ultra lounge brand opened in September at Delta's Terminal 3 in LAX.

Gaming culture is a way of life in the Bayou City , which hosts Comicpalooza, the largest pop culture festival in Texas, and is home to several e-sports teams, including the pro esports squad, the Houston Outlaws.

A delayed flight never seemed so ideal for gamers flying out of Hobby. Photo courtesy of Gameway

“Gameway is the real reason to get to the airport early,” said Co-Founder Jordan Walbridge in a statement. “Our mission is to upgrade the typical wait-at-the-gate experience with a new stimulating, entertaining option for travelers of all ages.”

Here's guessing Hobby might just see an increase in missed or late flight arrivals — as travelers simply must beat those big bosses, solve puzzles, or win sports matches in the lounge.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.